Yesterday, I fell under the spell of one of those incongruently placed displays, and yes, I bought an item that I wasn't thinking of until that moment. But this time I think it must have been a nudge from Sacred Spirit that caused the grocery manager to drop that shipper in that spot. Right there at the end of the laundry detergent/dish soap aisle was a display of small bags of hard candies. Butterscotch, peppermints, and shining as if a spotlight was turned on them, a 4 ounce bag of lemon drops.I reached out and picked up the bag of lemon drops, put the bag in my basket and brought it home with me. This morning, as I sat down to work, I popped a lemon drop in my mouth and was instantly transported from a day of dreary weather and tedious chores to summer days of childhood and the unconditional love of a most amazing woman.
My favorite Auntie loved lemon drops. She carried a bag in her purse and had a bag in the car.Trips with her meant that you would be offered a lemon drop. In fact, you never knew when she would pull the bag out of her purse and offer them around, but you knew that she would.She loved the sweet and sour, there were days that she only kept the drop in her mouth until the sugar was gone. As kids we cringed when we knew that perhaps she had sucked the sugar off the drops, I think she let us believe that to keep us on our toes.
In that way, isn't life like a lemon drop. Wonderful days with nothing but sweetness, and days that make us pucker from the sour, but the days that are the most important I think are those days that are like that moment when the lemon drop is an exquisite combination of both.
My Auntie was the glue that kept our family together. She taught the most important lessons in the way she lived her life every day. She loved each of us unconditionally, even those of us who weren't particularly lovable. She survived horrible tragedy in her life, and reveled in her blessings. She taught us how to forgive by being forgiving. She forgave some pretty unforgivable things.
She knew great loss. She was pregnant six times. All of her pregnancies were apparently normal pregnancies, lasting the full nine months. But only 2 of her children survived past the first 24 hours of life. Her second child, and her sixth child. How does a woman manage to be pregnant fearing that her baby will die? Of course, in our present time, we have medical technology that can tell us what is happening with our pregnancy. How much harder would it be to know that the child you are loving will not survive. I know young women who have gone through that, and I can't even imagine the strength involved. I asked her how she was able to keep trying, and she just looked at me and said her living daughters were worth it.
She knew great pain, both physical and emotional. Her arms were scarred from burns suffered in girlhood. She was participating in a school Christmas program, and her sleeves caught fire as she placed an ornament on the tree. Trees were lit by candles in her childhood. She suffered months of pain and recovery from the second and third degree burns on such a large part of her body. Yet, when inevitably a child would point to the scars and ask "Auntie, why do you look like that." She would share how she was burned, but then she would share lovely stories of how her big brother fed her bananas against the doctors orders. She acknowledged that there was pain, but she chose to remember the loving care of her family.
She knew betrayal. She was divorced after 35 years. For reasons the rest of us never understood, her husband left her for another woman. Auntie had forgiven him over and over for being unfaithful. At one point he had an affair with one of her sisters. She forgave him, and she forgave her sister.None of us children had an idea of these things. When, as an adult I brought her my problems,she would never tell me what I ought to do, but she would share the stories from her life, showing me that life is always about choices. She chose to forgive her husbands affairs because she was a woman of a different time. Had she been a woman of my generation, she may have had more options and made different choices. But, she was a woman of her generation,and she chose to stay. In her mind it was more important that he was a good provider and good father. She knew that people were imperfect, and felt that he loved her the best he knew how. She remarried a few years later, and had over 20 years with her second husband,who loved her and treated her as if she were a great gift.
My favorite auntie was every one's favorite.She was the favorite sister to each of her siblings.My father was her oldest brother, and he loved and admired her.He was the brother who fed her bananas when the doctored told him they weren't good for her, and it turned out the doctor was wrong. Loving unconditionally was her greatest gift to all of us. It seemed like she took in those of us in her family who were most flawed, and took care of us in such a way that we became better people. We learned from her how to love, how to forgive, and that life is always about choosing to do the best you know how in each moment, and if you make a bad choice it doesn't keep you from making a better choice the next moment.She taught us that forgiving wasn't about who was right and who was wrong. That when you forgive you give up the right to be right, and you simply offer grace and love.She taught us that life is like a lemon drop. Some days it is sweet, some days it is sour, and if you keep it in your mouth long enough you will be rewarded with that moment when it is the perfect combination of both!